William H. Keeler

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For the American baseball player, see Willie Keeler.
His Eminence
William H. Keeler
Cardinal, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore
See Baltimore (emeritus)
Appointed April 11, 1989
Installed May 23, 1989
Term ended July 12, 2007
Predecessor William Donald Borders
Successor Edwin O'Brien
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria degli Angeli
Ordination July 17, 1955
by Luigi Traglia
Consecration September 21, 1979
by Joseph Thomas Daley
Created Cardinal November 26, 1994
by John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born (1931-03-04) March 4, 1931 (age 86)
San Antonio, Texas
Previous post
(Do The Work of an Evangelist)
Styles of
William Henry Keeler
Coat of arms of William Henry Keeler.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Baltimore (emeritus)

William Henry Keeler (born March 4, 1931) is an American cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Baltimore, Maryland, from 1989 to 2007 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1994.

Pope Benedict XVI accepted Keeler's resignation on July 12, 2007, and appointed Edwin O'Brien to succeed him as Archbishop of Baltimore.


Early life and education[edit]

Keeler was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Thomas and Margaret (née Conway) Keeler. Both of his parents were of Irish descent. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where Keeler attended St. Mary School and Lebanon Catholic High School.[1] He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. Keeler received a BA from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, in 1952.

Ordination, education and ministry[edit]

While studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he was ordained to the priesthood on July 17, 1955, by Archbishop Luigi Traglia.

He received both a Licentiate of Sacred Theology (1956) and Doctorate of Canon Law (1961) from the Gregorian, and after doing pastoral and curial work in the Diocese of Harrisburg, he served as a peritus, or expert, and secretary to Bishop George Leech at the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Keeler worked for the Council Digest, a communications service used to bring people in the United States day-to day news of the Council.[2]

Keeler was raised to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness on November 9, 1965, and later Honorary Prelate of His Holiness on May 8, 1970.

Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg[edit]

On July 24, 1979, Keeler was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg and Titular Bishop of Ulcinium[3] He received his episcopal consecration on the following September 21 from Bishop Joseph Thomas Daley, with Bishops Francis Gossman and Martin Lohmuller serving as co-consecrators. Keeler took as his episcopal motto: Opus Fac Evangeliste ("Do the Work of an Evangelist").

Bishop of Harrisburg[edit]

Keeler was named the seventh Bishop of Harrisburg on November 10, 1983, succeeding Bishop Daley, who had died. He was installed on January 4, 1984, in the Cathedral of St. Patrick.[4]

Archbishop of Baltimore[edit]

Keeler was appointed as the fourteenth Metropolitan Archbishop of Baltimore on April 11, 1989, following the retirement of William Donald Borders, and was installed on May 23. As Archbishop of Baltimore, Keeler was head of America's oldest see.

He was elected President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November 1992.[5] He had been elected as the organization's Vice President in November 1989, when hosting Baltimore's bicentennial celebration of the founding of the diocese. He also served as Chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, Chair of the Board and Chancellor of St. Mary's Seminary and University in Baltimore, as well as of Mount Saint Mary's University.

While president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Keeler helped to organize the 1993 World Youth Day held in Denver, Colorado.[6]

Keeler developed a reputation for effectively building interfaith bonds, particularly for furthering Catholic-Jewish dialogue while serving as moderator of Catholic-Jewish Relations for the USCCB. As Chair of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs from 1984 to 1987, he helped arrange the Pope's meetings with Jewish leaders in Miami and with Protestant leaders in Columbia, South Carolina.[7]

Keeler was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri by Pope John Paul II in a consistory on November 26, 1994.[8] He was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in 1994 and to the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in November 1994. From 1998 to 2001 and again since November 2003, he has served as Chair for the Committee on Pro-Life Activities. Keeler was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave. Keeler reached age 80 on March 4, 2011, and lost the eligibility to participate in any future papal conclaves.

One of Keeler's priorities was the strengthening of the Catholic school system. In 1992, he initiated the Lenten Appeal, a giving campaign that has raised over $44 million in support of Baltimore's Catholic schools, the needs of the less fortunate, and a variety of spiritual development efforts and the Cardinal's Partners in Excellence scholarship program has raised $16 million in tuition assistance for at-risk children.

The cardinal was also responsible for the restoration of Baltimore's Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, America's first cathedral. The project cost about $32 million, which were raised entirely from private donations and not from the Archdiocese's treasury, and lasted from 2004 until 2006.[9]

Keeler was the President of the American Division Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Chair of the Black and Native American Missions Board. He was Chairman of the Board of Catholic Charities, the largest non-governmental agency providing assistance to the needy of Maryland. He was also president of the Cathedral Foundation and publisher of The Catholic Review.[citation needed]

In 2007, Keeler, after reaching his 76th year of age, submitted his resignation to the pope as required by Church law. It was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI on July 12, and Keeler was succeeded in his role as Archbishop by Edwin Frederick O'Brien, the former Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.[10]

Honors and awards[edit]

An Eagle Scout, Keeler is a recipient of the Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, and Distinguished Eagle Scout Award of the Boy Scouts of America.[11]

He holds honorary degrees from Lebanon Valley College, Gettysburg College, Susquehanna University, and Gannon University.[citation needed]


Embryonic stem cell research[edit]

As chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee for Pro-life Activities, he criticized Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's announcement that he will support federally funded stem cell research that requires destroying human embryos.[12]


On November 18, 2005, at the annual general assembly of the National Council of Churches, he reassured delegates that the Roman Catholic Church, and Pope Benedict XVI, were firmly ecumenical.[13]

Terri Schiavo[edit]

Keeler mourned the death of Terri Schiavo, calling it a "human tragedy".[14] Schiavo was a woman in a persistent vegetative state who died in 2005, thirteen days after her feeding tube had been removed at the request of her husband.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Official biography". Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archived from the original on February 26, 2009. Retrieved July 16, 2007. 
  2. ^ COLLEGE OF CARDINALS COLLECTION: William Henry Keeler Daily Catholic. 28-31 May, 1999. Web. 6 March 2016.
  3. ^ Archives of Maryland (Biographical Series): William Cardinal Keeler Maryland State Archives. Web. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Most Reverend William H. Keeler-Biography". The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Retrieved April 9, 2016. 
  5. ^ The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  6. ^ Broadway, Bill. Baltimore's Cardinal Keeler, A Priest in the Pope's Image The Washington Post. September 30, 1995. Web. Retrieved March 17, 2016.
  7. ^ Cardinal William Henry Keeler to Receive Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Graduation Ceremonies Hebrew Union College. Web. Retrieved March 11, 2016.
  8. ^ David M. Cheyney. Santa Maria degli Angeli. (containing a complete list of the Cardinal Priests). Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved April 3 2016.
  9. ^ Gaul, Christopher.Restoring the Light in Baltimore's Basilica The American Catholic. Web. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Keeler legacy will continue". Baltimore Sun. July 13, 2007. 
  11. ^ "Vatican II at 35: An Interview with Cardinal William Keeler". St. Anthony Messenger. Retrieved May 24, 2006. 
  12. ^ Criticizes Senate Majority Leader Frist's Statement on Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
  13. ^ Cardinal Keeler assures NCC General Assembly of Pope Benedict's commitment to ecumenism
  14. ^ Cardinal Keeler Mourns Tragic Death of Terri Schiavo
  15. ^ Autopsy report (Washington Post).

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
William Donald Borders
Archbishop of Baltimore
Succeeded by
Edwin Frederick O'Brien
Preceded by
Joseph Thomas Daley
Bishop of Harrisburg
Succeeded by
Nicholas C. Dattilo